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Advent: Discipleship in Darkness
An original work of poetry by moi

Darkness.

The dreadful darkness. The dismal darkness. The dreary darkness.

The very, very, dark darkness.

Four feeble candles on a wreath is all I have to hold back the bleak and blustery night.

Our tiny, trifling sphere tilts away from our source of light.

Solstice.

Solstice of the soul.

Advent.

I wait. I lament.

Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus — this frenzied, bloated world makes merry to delude itself about the darkness.

But not me.

I slide into the darkness like a hangnailed finger slides into an overladen nostril.

Somber. Still. Sealed from the fury.

I wait.

I bleat mournful and minor ballads. No one will make me sing carols.

I will not hurry.

Advent is like being stuck behind a garbage truck when you’re running late.

I will face the abyss. I seek the courage to probe my vacuous soul.

An empty manger. A no-vacancy inn. My hollowfied heart.

The cold and merciless universe, this threadbare and weary world, my odoriferous and loathsome flesh are a COVID-infested Red Roof Inn between the Dollar Store and Waffle House that our vestal Saviour makes home.

Lodgifizing, Embodification, En-residentialmente, Abidingmonque, Chiliconcarne.

Still, I persist.

I dream of a day when the world will be dignified and tasteful.

I try hard not to savor this desolate time, to take no pride in my sanctimony.

Deep discipleship only for those as introspective, authentic, distinguished, and penitent as I.

*****

Suggestions for a Meaningful Advent

  • Learn to chant the Book of Lamentations in Aramaic, according to the tunes of St. Pachadyrmius of the Abbey of Tasmanzonia.
  • Assess your wardrobe to determine if you could put leather patches on the elbows of any more of your habiliment.
  • Memorize all the synonyms for gloom found in Roget’s Thesaurus.
  • Deign to serve on your congregation’s Worship Committee in order to develop new names or themes for each Sunday of Advent. For example, Week One –Wrath; Week Two — Pestilence; Week Three — Judgment; Week Four — Hell.
  • Let your prescription for antidepressants lapse.
  • Walk a 666 mile pilgrimage, preferably bare-foot, to major retailers, malls, big-box stores, and especially Amazon Distribution Centers, then scream imprecatory psalms at the entrance.
  • Spin yarn from a mix of Marian donkey bristles and the whiskers from the now nearly-extinct Achaemenid camel, then make pajamas from it for your entire family.
  • Have your home church sponsor a support group for Hallmark Christmas movie addicts, practicing COVID-appropriate protocols, of course.
  • Each week of Advent work on developing a taste for an elite and underappreciated delicacy. Possibilities include fruit cake, mincemeat pie, marzipan, oysters, and cognac.
  • Use the word “prophetic” at least twelve times per day. If you already do this, instead substitute the words “existential” or “angst.”
  • Craft artisanal Advent candles of tallow derived from desiccated Galiean locust thoraxes (commonly known as “Baptist Hoppers”)
  • Read poetry composed only by tormented souls.
  • Calligraph individualized Christmas greetings to your closest 1440 friends on locally-sourced, humanely-raised parchment using ink extracted from organic Christmas cactus blossoms.
  • Attempt to build up and store emotional stockpiles of righteous indignation. Finding appropriate targets should not prove difficult.

Disclaimer: In case it isn’t obvious, this is a sophomoric, tongue-in-cheek attempt to lampoon our Advent pomposity.
To any I have offended and/or exposed, I apologize.
I hope whatever pain I caused is mitigated by a few small chuckles.

Merry Christmas!

Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell

Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell and his wife, Sophie, are the pastors at the Second Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa. Steve has served on numerous Reformed Church commissions and task forces, and also edited the journal Perspectives for many years. Before coming to Iowa, he lived and served as a pastor in upstate New York. Sophie and he have two adult children. He holds a Ph.D. from Boston College in theological ethics.

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